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Strengthening the NDIS

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Three things to strengthen the NDIS: personalised supports, grassroots LACs, and a simple participant pathway

When the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) started, it was rightfully hailed as a step forward in how Australia supports people living with disability to live active and valued lives in our communities. Although the NDIS has delivered benefits for many people, over time the positive sentiment has begun to erode, and the scheme has become mired in controversy and political contention. There is a lot of discussion about ‘getting the NDIS back on track’, ‘fixing the NDIS’, or ‘returning the NDIS to its origins’ – all vague notions that mean different things to different people.

JFA Purple Orange believes three specific things can help to ensure that the NDIS achieves its promise to genuinely improve the life chances of people living with disability. In the lead up to the federal election, JFA Purple Orange is calling on all political parties and candidates to commit to:

  • Reframing the discussion about sustainability to focus on the broader positive value to individuals and communities of investing in authentic personalised supports that genuinely enable people to live valued ordinary lives, achieve their goals, and participate in the social, cultural, and economic activities of our communities
  • Replacing the current model of largescale commissioning of Partners in the Community (PITC) with a new approach that harnesses the genuine local knowledge and community connections of grassroots organisations  
  • Eliminating unnecessary complexity from the participant pathway and enshrining a simple approach based on an ‘Indicate – Negotiate – Evaluate’ framework
  • Personalised supports


Recent discussions about the financial sustainability of the NDIS have become detached from the purpose and values of the scheme. Many neglect to acknowledge that the original assumptions underpinning the 2011 Productivity Commission report did not (and perhaps could not) fully account for the significant levels of unfunded and unmet need that existed across Australia at that time, or a cost model based on providing personalised supports rather than the block-funded, shared group services that had traditionally dominated the sector. Yet, individual choice and control are at the centre of the NDIS for very good reasons because this is the approach that presents the greatest prospect of achieving the best outcomes for participants. We are already seeing a shift back to a group consumption model particularly for people with higher support needs on what appears to be an unspoken basis of reducing costs in line with a misinformed sustainability narrative.

JFA Purple Orange believes that the cost model for the NDIS must be based on providing authentic personalised supports. In this context, we question the usefulness of the 2011 financial predictions as an ongoing benchmark against which to continue to compare NDIS costs or future financial sustainability. We urge all parties and candidates in this election to commit to reframing how costs and sustainability are considered to ensure that personalised supports and individual choice remain at the core of the NDIS. Doing so will allow for a more realistic and nuanced cost model to be developed that stays true to the values of the NDIS while guaranteeing the scheme’s future.


Grassroots LACs

Partners in the Community (PITC) are providers that deliver Local Area Coordination (LAC) and Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) services under the NDIS. However, ‘local’ has proved to be something of a misnomer, with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) undertaking largescale commissioning of relatively few providers and giving each a substantial geographic area or demographic to serve. NDIS participants tell us that their LACs are distant and offer little genuine local knowledge or connections to mainstream services and community supports. The sub-optimal outcomes that result from this model add to costs because they lower engagement with mainstream community supports and increase reliance on NDIS-funded options.

The NDIA has recently released a tender invitation that would lock in this model for another five to seven years. JFA Purple Orange strongly urges whoever forms government after the election to urgently intervene and refocus the PITC approach to one that harnesses the genuine local knowledge and community connections of grassroots organisations in delivering PITC services.


Simple participant pathway

The NDIS participant pathway is too complex and routinely produces inconsistent outcomes leading to costly reviews and appeals. A simple pathway based on a conceptual framework of ‘Indicate – Calibrate – Evaluate’ would improve the participant experience and lower the administrative burden. Via a simple, non-clinical, upfront assessment process that maps the consequences of the disability, a participant would receive an indicative budget considered reasonable and necessary to change those consequences. The participant builds a draft plan that focuses on what’s important for them. An NDIS delegate then works with the participant to calibrate the plan so its components are relevant and reasonable and fit within the Scheme’s parameters, and the plan is then signed off. At the end of the plan’s term, the NDIS delegate and participant evaluate how it went, to look at what worked, how well, and what this means for the participant’s next budget. This data also helps the NDIS evolve, by identifying what types of investment produce the best outcomes for example in terms of mainstream employment, inclusive housing, and authentic membership in community and economy.

We urge all parties and candidates to commit to applying the principle of simplicity to how the NDIA implements the NDIS and actively avoiding unnecessary complexity and duplication while maintaining important participant safeguards.

The NDIS is an essential component of ensuring that Australians living with disability have a fair go at what life has to offer. It must be strengthened and sustained to ensure it delivers on its promise. 



Do you commit to each of the three tenets to strengthen the NDIS: personalised supports, grassroots LACs, and a simple participant pathway?

For further information, please contact Robbi Williams, CEO of JFA Purple Orange, on
(08) 8373 8333 or